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Column: It's time to join "The Jetsons" era; bring on the flying cars
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Column: It's time to join "The Jetsons" era; bring on the flying cars

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As a child, I loved watching “The Jetsons.” George and Jane Jetson with all their space-age, time-saving technology seemed like a great idea to me. My favorite futuristic item was George’s flying aero car with the neat bubble-top that he flew twice a week to Spacely Space Sprockets where he spent one hour each day on the job.

I genuinely thought when I reached adulthood, we would have flying cars like “The Jetsons.” Alas, my dreams went unrealized — until now. The Jetsons-era is finally upon us with the announcement this month that several auto companies, including Fiat Chrysler, have been developing aerial vehicles.

According to Hugh Martin, CEO of Lacuna Technologies, flying cars could be commercially available by 2024, but regulations for managing the new form of air traffic will be a concern. Apparently, there’s a big difference between when cars can fly and when they will be safe and reliable to actually do so.

Martin suggested cities are becoming increasingly concerned about how to manage automobile air traffic. Well, Mr. Martin, if the drivers I see running stoplights every morning in Viewmont are any indication, cities should be concerned about their safety regulations before adding automobiles to “the Friendly Skies,” as United Airlines used to call them.

While I’ve been hoping for flying cars since the early 1980s, the U.S. hasn’t been producing non-flying automobiles for all that long in the grand scheme of things. It was just 113 years ago this month that Henry Ford’s Model T first rolled off the line in Detroit. At a cost of $825 (about $18,000 in today’s dollars), few people could afford Ford’s luxury item, which buyers could famously have in any color they wanted, as long as it was black.

Not much has changed as far as affordability as these new flying luxury vehicles have a current price expectation of close to $700,000. Certainly, some wealthy individuals will be able to afford flying cars, but most people will still be traveling on land. They think the flying vehicles will be a game-changer for carrying freight and packages though, since their $700K price tag is far less than a Boeing 747 freighter which costs more than $400 million. A Dutch company has developed a commercial PAL-V (personal air and land vehicle) which is approved for use on the roads there already. It appears to be a cross between an aerodynamic car and a small helicopter with a foldable propeller on the roof.

It might be a good thing that the cost of these flying vehicles makes them out of reach for the average citizen since I can’t imagine most people would be able to successfully operate a small helicopter. I mean, only 18% of Americans can even drive a stick shift these days. My father required me to learn how to drive a manual transmission before he would let me get my driver’s license, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have turned me loose with a small helicopter.

Flying cars aren’t the only things “The Jetsons” cartoons predicted either. If you’re a Jetsons’ fan, you may remember they had drones, robots, holograms, video conferencing, smart home automation, jetpacks and even smart watches. It was very insightful for a show that premiered in 1962.

The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA are working closely with drone and air taxi providers to determine what air traffic will look like in the not-so-far-away future. I think George Jetson would approve.

Now, when can we start talking about that two-hour workweek?

Cami Hepler is a lifelong animal lover, year-round sports fan, and part-time freelance writer from Hickory.

It might be a good thing that the cost of these flying vehicles makes them out of reach for the average citizen since I can’t imagine most people would be able to successfully operate a small helicopter. I mean, only 18% of Americans can even drive a stick shift these days.

Jetson dreams
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